Monthly Archives: May 2013

Genuine Happiness Is Worth Some Genuine Sacrifices

happiness 001

“Happiness is worth a lot to me,” a good friend, colleague, and mentor of mine once told his boss as he made a decision that would lead to his leaving the company.

“Well, so what? Isn’t happiness worth a lot to everybody?” his boss replied.

“No,” my friend replied truthfully and I think with unusual wisdom, “it is not—not to everybody.”

I’ve thought of that exchange often. My friend’s words may mean more when I tell you that he is very motivated and one of the best businessmen I know.

I haven’t conducted any polls, scientific or otherwise, to shed light on the percentages involved, but I’d speculate that more people than not so “naturally” equate “bigger and more” with better and happier—a bigger title, a bigger salary, more responsibility, more prestige, more power, increased “upward mobility,” etc.—that they hardly even consider that “bigger and more” might not mean “happier.”

Oh, it might. Aside from the fact that none of us can actually “make” anybody happy and that people who really want to be unhappy are almost always very good at getting their wish, sometimes, though not nearly as often as we think, bigger and more actually is better.

I have known some remarkably unselfish and praiseworthy folks who seem absolutely gifted by God in leadership, business skill, organization-building, etc., who have honored God in everything they’ve done. And they seem happy to me.

But every bit as impressive to me are folks I know who have realized that, in this decision or that goal, if they didn’t believe God was calling them in one direction or the other, if it was more a career choice than a moral choice, more a geographical choice than a spiritual choice, they recognized that real happiness often lies in living “peaceful and quiet lives” and “being content with what you have.” I can hardly imagine two biblical admonitions that would more squarely slap our sick society full across the face!

But what good, after all, is a bigger house if the job you’ve taken to pay for it means you are never home?

A very common and oft-repeated error some people make, author Philip Gulley writes, is to “mistake contentment for stagnation.” In truth, the most genuinely productive, creative, and joyful people I know are those who are among the most deeply contented.

Trust the Lord for your true contentment. Do your job “as honoring the Lord.” And I suspect that more than a few opportunities will come your way for advancement.

But be sure to look them over carefully and prayerfully. Not every opportunity for advancement is an opportunity for increased happiness or real contentment or genuine service. Even if this world can’t begin to understand Christ’s words, God’s people can believe them: “A man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”

Happy indeed is the person who knows that more money, more power, more prestige does not necessarily mean more genuine happiness.



Copyright 2013 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.

“End of Construction: Thank You for Your Patience”


In a recent column, I mentioned that among the highest points of a recent trip to Carolina, was a visit (two visits, actually) my wife and I made to the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte.

As I said in that column, I don’t usually toss around the word “inspirational,” but the Billy Graham Library deserves that adjective. Designed to reflect his upbringing on a dairy farm in North Carolina, the library, grounds and all, wonderfully honors Billy Graham by honoring most of all the Lord he has served so long and well.

I was particularly surprised to find that among the most thought-provoking sights at the library were on its verdant grounds. And they were graves.

One is the grave of that “sweet singer of Israel,” George Beverly Shea, who has often been called “America’s beloved Gospel singer.” A Grammy Award-winner and ten-time nominee, Shea was inducted in 1978 into the Gospel Music Association Hall of Fame. For most of his long life, he was an integral part of Billy Graham’s team and the featured singer at Graham’s crusades. Graham said, “I’ve been listing to Bev Shea sing for over 50 years, and I still would rather hear him sing than anyone I know.”

George Beverly Shea lived to be an amazing 104 years old, and he had passed away on April 16, 2013, just a few weeks before my wife and I visited the Billy Graham Library. We’d heard that his body had been buried on the grounds of the library. On the afternoon we first visited, we were running out of time, but we hurried out and followed the path down and around, and came to one grave (that of Wilma “Billie” Barrows, wife of longtime music director Cliff Barrows), and, nearby, a small pile of fronds and flowers, and I told Juana, “I’ll bet that’s George Beverly Shea’s grave.”

Three days later, we had a little time to come back and finish our tour. And, sometime during that interval, the headstone had been set: “George Beverly Shea: America’s Beloved Gospel Singer.” And he was. On this past Sunday, back home, I played during worship a recording of him singing the song for which he wrote the music, “I’d Rather Have Jesus.”

Back up the path on the library grounds is another peaceful plot with spaces for two graves. And one is being used. It’s the grave of Ruth Bell Graham, Billy’s wife, and an amazing person in her own rite.

Ruth was born in China to missionary parents, and at the top of her North Carolina fieldstone marker is the Chinese character for “righteousness” (which is also, I’m told, on her father’s headstone). She passed aw

ay just a few days after the library was opened in 2007.

Below her name and the dates, “June 10, 1920 – June 14, 2007” are words that Ruth had seen as she was riding down a highway. She thought these would make a fine epitaph, and she was right: “End of Construction: Thank You for Your Patience.”

I wonder what will be written on your headstone and mine? Words that point to Christ, I hope. One thing’s sure: we’re writing those words right now.IMG_3303-small








Copyright 2013 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.

“In My Mind I’m Gone to Carolina”

“In my mind I’m gone to Carolina,” sings James Taylor.Carolina-CKS-001

Ever since my mind and the rest of me went to Carolina last week, that tune’s been playing in my head, and it still is now that we’re home. Do you mind a little travel note this week?

It’s not hard to fall in love with Carolina. The rolling hills, rich forests, brilliant flowers taking seasonal turns in the spotlight, lush green vegetation (Water actually falls from the sky there; they call it rain!) is almost enough to throw a Texas (through and through) flatlander into sensory overload!

On a side note, this English major was particularly interested in the way those folks talk. Both Texans and Carolinians speak “Southern American English,” which encompasses many dialects. But my tongue felt right at home. I could roll some “y’all’s” off it and never raise anybody’s eyebrows. I need to read more about this, but they talk pretty much like my people, but with a soft sort of blanket around some of the words that just feels warm and nice and welcoming.

My wife and I even felt a nice welcome from the Vanderbilts over at the Biltmore Estate (or at least the folks watching their little place there). Talk about sensory overload!

We had fun at the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte. Even more, we enjoyed touring through the Billy Graham Library at Charlotte. I don’t toss the word “inspirational” around a bunch. But it is. And interesting. And faith-affirming. And peaceful. Just right for what it was designed to be and Who it was truly designed to honor.

We spent some wonderful time with dear friends who opened their warm home and became tour guides deluxe. With them we drove down the Blue Ridge Parkway, sampled some Carolina culinary delights, and floated on some fine Carolina water.

I even did a little work, if you could call it that. We’d gone to North Carolina to record the instrumentals for a Christmas album. Why Carolina? Just trust me, the rich mix of a heritage of old time music, gospel, country, blue grass, blues, etc., and a relative proximity to Nashville and Nashville-quality musicians (with less than Nashville prices) makes it perfect.

Gary Rushing’s studio is as warm and welcoming as the man himself. He plays buttons and dials and sliders at an amazing tempo. Four genuinely nice guys showed up, dragged out a dizzying variety of instruments, drank a little coffee, tuned up, and . . . from the first note, I was utterly blown away. I’ve never been that close to that much world-class talent. As smooth as Carolina and quietly and unpretentiously honoring the One who makes the music of our lives, those guys have played with and for . . . a long and eye-popping list of folks.

Somebody goofed letting me in the door. But I’m thankful to the One who opened the door and who’ll walk with us and lead on all our journeys if we let him.

I never thought my road would lead through Carolina. Sure glad it did. “In my mind . . .” this Texan will be spending a good bit of sweet time there.

       You’re invited to visit my website at!

Copyright 2013 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.

The Only Stuff Worth Piling Up Is “Treasure in Heaven”

piles of records

A few weeks after my father passed away in January 2000, my siblings and I re-gathered to go through his stuff. And I resolved to keep less stuff.

Dad left us, and many more people as well, a legacy worth more than gold. He also left a prodigious amount of paper.

Some of it was correspondence of real historical value for anyone interested in the history of “our” little group of churches. I’ve only scratched the surface, but the letters I’ve read bear testimony to the Christlike heart, wisdom, and gentle spirit of my father, his devotion to his Father, and the struggles he, perhaps as much as any single individual, helped lead this little group of churches through. By God’s grace, Dad left a legacy of love that will long be blessing folks who never even knew him.

Yes, and I repeat, he also left much paper. Records. Files. Bible teaching materials. Most in English. A good bit in Spanish. (He loved to teach and preach in Spanish and did so fluently.)

Dad kept records of every sort. Amidst years of bank statements, I found the check he wrote to Amarillo’s Northwest Texas Hospital at my birth. I’ve never thought of myself as any great bargain, but it turns out that I was. At least if you compare 1957 dollars to 2013 dollars. My younger brother found the check paid for him as well. I don’t remember if we compared amounts, but it would be only proper if they got him a good bit more cheaply.

When our sister died in 2007, my brothers and I gathered in Houston for more stuff-sifting. She had the same packrat propensity but on steroids. And I swore a solemn oath to keep less stuff.

Ah, but there’s a reason Jesus told us to avoid oath-making. And, sadly, the only resolution I’ve ever come close to keeping is my resolution never to make resolutions.

Give me a full month to do just two things—breathe, and work on tossing the “stuff” that’s threatening to bury me—I might make a small dent in the pile. If this were the only reason my kids should pray for my longevity, it’s a good one.

But yesterday UPS delivered to my door a new shredder. Only three or four “overheat” cycles later, I’d destroyed a decade or a few of old checks and bank statements. I feel freer already.

I knew better than to look at the checks much, but just the glimpses I caught as I was feeding the machine took me on side trips down Memory Lane—and bolstered the not-so-surprising but stark truth that we write in our check registers the real story of what, and who, is most important in our lives. Two file boxes down the road, I’m nowhere near where I need to be on this journey, but . . .

Jesus told us a long time ago that the only stuff truly worth piling up is “treasure in heaven.” The rest of it, you can’t take with you.

With apologies to my children, may I say a resounding and heartfelt, “Good!” When I’m gone, I suggest to them some combination of a front end loader, matches, and a landfill—and a swift kick in the pants to any sibling who says, “Oh, I don’t know, we might need that.”


 You’re invited to visit my website at!


Copyright 2013 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.

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